MYSTIC — Eva Jane Peck stood before a small, square card table on Steamboat Wharf in downtown Mystic on a recent sunny Saturday morning, selling copies of a publication with a dazzling name.
The Root of Twinkle, which began as a local fanzine back in the 1990s, has returned with a blaze during these days of quarantining, COVID-19 and changed circumstances, and has quickly become the talk of the town.
Fifty-four pages long, with images of a dozen national (Dr. Anthony Fauci, Breonna Taylor, Little Richard, John Lewis) and local (Dan Curland, owner of the iconic Mystic Disc) luminaries on the front cover, and one of George Floyd on the back, Volume IV, Issue I of The Root of Twinkle is now on sale for $6 a copy. Just as it was 25 years ago, the zine is printed on paper, contains advertisements from area businesses and is available at local businesses in a limited edition.
"I may be old-fashioned, but I continue to enjoy reading printed newspapers and magazines," said Peck, who has the distinction of being Root's "editor-for-life." "It is refreshing to create photocopies and hold tangible reading material in a time when we are not allowed to get too physically close to each other. There's just something about holding paper ... it's intimate."
Root is still a fanzine "in terms of the independent, low-cost publication and intentionally scrappy layout," she said, "but the subject matter has become a bit more rich and well-rounded in this new edition ... a benefit of aging, no doubt ... while still maintaining an interest in music."
"As writers, our job is to inform, educate and entertain," she said.
The new issue, said Peck, who was standing just yards away from Mystic Disc, includes some nostalgia, along with "stories of racial unrest, input from members of Gen Z on the Black Lives Matter movement in New London County, musings on the pandemic and how it has affected our daily lives, and reflections on the rise — and fall in some cases — of local music and businesses, including the now-defunct Bee Bee Dairy."
The good news, said Peck, is that the new Root of Twinkle still resonates with many of the people who have read it.
Most of the articles in the new issue are written by people who grew up in the Mystic area, and some are very much involved in the town, Peck explained between a pause in a conversation with a former neighbor, Chris Holdridge who stopped by Peck's table for a visit.
"This is the only part of Mystic that's still us," said Holdridge, 49, a Mystic native who now lives in Groton.
Peck said other contributors to the new issue "have moved across the country to build their lives, but look back with us to share their memories."
Peck, who grew up in Mystic and attended the Williams School before heading to New York City to attend Barnard College, said she and her best friend and former classmate, Vanessa Gazari, started the fanzine — a portmanteau of the words "fan" and "magazine" that denotes a homemade non-professional publication — to write about the "independent music and culture in the area."
"It captured some magic from that time," said Peck, who interviewed bands from the Mystic music scene, including 17 Relics, and reviewed shows from the Mystic New Music Festival.
Peck said the two friends, who also worked on the the Williams School newspaper, "Iskra," were inspired by "Riot Grrrl-era fanzines of the day," and were enthralled with the "cut-and-paste layout design" and the idea of "gluing on re-contextualized humorous and pointed phrases in the margins" of the publication.
Peck and Gazari put out five issues of The Root of Twinkle between 1991 and 1995, but the publication went silent for the next 25 years.
Then came the pandemic.
Peck, who lives in Brooklyn, returned to Mystic earlier this year with her teenaged daughter, Willa, and moved in with her mother, Sara Schuster Peck, to wait out the lockdown.
The "serendipitous occasion," she said, allowed her to reconnect with old friends from town.
One of those friends is Michelle Gemma, owner of the Mystic Army Navy Store in downtown Mystic, who serves as production editor for the latest issue. Peck and Gemma pasted the current issue together on top of Gemma's kitchen table.
"Michelle is connected to people of all ages," said Peck. "A lot of people with a lot of different perspectives."
"Eva and I reconnected over Crystal Caldwell," added Gemma who said she was outraged when she learned of the incident involving Caldwell, the Black hotel worker who was was attacked by a white couple at a Mystic hotel earlier this year.
"We galvanized over Crystal," said Gemma. "I knew I needed to take action, so I attended the rallies and organized a gift-card collection for Crystal."
"We all know these are divisive, tough times," added Gemma, the author of one of the Bee Bee Dairy pieces in the new edition of The Root of Twinkle, "but I also know we needed to do something to help transcend and mark these times."
The new fanzine also includes a Mystic-centric crossword puzzle; stories by Rich Freitas, a former member of 17 Relics; reflections on the Black Lives Matter movement and some vintage menus from Bee Bee Dairy.
"We need more things like Root in the country these days," Gemma said.
"We hope that this project will lend some warmth and happiness to people who need it," added Peck, "for those from the Mystic area and beyond."